Spoiler alert: this post will also be unprecedented. Because, folks, we are living in unprecedented times. Haven’t you seen the news?!
Therefore if you are looking for the usual tongue-in-cheek send-up of myself and all the silliness that accompanies it, switch off now.
Here’s the thing: I am a born worrier. Most of the time, I’m quite adept at hiding it, but it’s true. And my nearest and dearest are rarely fooled.
Sometimes the worry sets in, like an infestation, and creeps through my body, and through my every day. Sometimes it becomes overwhelming.
Usually, I keep knowledge of these episodes to a close circle. Part of why I don’t dwell on the thoughts that swell under the surface of my mind is the legitimacy of the fear at their core. Because most of my fears are completely irrational, I don’t want to document them, to give them too much of my time. I don’t want to lend them shape and credence by casting them in print. Instead, when I am ready to, I articulate them, then I exaggerate them for comic effect, until eventually, I rip-the-piss out of them. I send-up the fears just like I send-up most of the silly things I do and say and see on in my posts on this site.
So that’s why this is unprecedented. Because for once, I’m going over to the dark side, because fear of Covid-19 is not irrational. It’s very real, it’s very current. And for that reason alone, I am finding it hard to park and send-up. That is why it can be documented.
I truth, the C word terrifies me. Just to clarify, I mean the Coronavirus C-word, not one of the other ones like cancer and clitoris and chlamydia. Or clavicle, even though I did break that once.
Tonight, a combination of the news and some fairly casual conversations induced a wave of panic, crashing down onto my chest. The usual knot tightened in my stomach and my breathing became shallow, rapid.
One remark stuck with me. It’s not the first time I have heard it. ‘If lockdown isn’t lifted soon, then people’s mental health will suffer.’ I didn’t like to point out that for many of us, our mental health is already suffering.
Personally, I feel destabilised. The ground beneath me feels difficult to negotiate. And because I know that in the grand scheme of anxiety, mine is pretty manageable, I am pretty sure that I am not the only one feeling that way.
I am constantly on guard and that alone is wearing. I don’t feel clean. No amount of soap and water can shake that feeling. People that I would usually greet with a smile are approached with caution. Areas that I would usually walk uninhibited are treaded carefully, reluctantly. Home, where I would usually feel safe, feels tainted.
Perhaps it’s irrational, but I don’t like touching gates, since not even our neighbours respect that these field gates are ours, a part of our home and our work place. Seeing first-hand the droves of holiday-makers infiltrating our little rural county in their droves doesn’t help. Neither does seeing the lorries carrying what I assume to be medical equipment to the new field hospital near by.
I have never liked hospitals or even GP surgeries in the past. I can think of no better way to say it, but they give me the creeps. I suspect it is their significance that scares me, their part in life and in death. Their very existence makes our own mortality startling. Now I dread the day my mother goes to work, and brings home Covid-19. One day, unbeknown to her, it will have clung to her skin, her hair, her mouth.
Like I said, I cannot be the only one that feels this way. I cannot be the only one who is struck dumb with fear that they, or their family might die. In a hospital bed. Alone. I cannot be the only one afraid of being left behind where death came to call, of negotiating the way through these black and bleak months alone? In particular, I worry about Maggie. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because as her older sister, I am supposed to protect her. Maybe because we are sisters, and because we are so close, and because we spend so much time together, she is intrinsically linked to my very sense of self.
I cannot bear to consider the plight of those already suffering an all-consuming grief, their loneliness made all the more stark by enforced isolation. Perhaps for them, lifting lockdown would help. Then again, when I see their pleas on the TV to stay at home, I can’t believe that it would be.
Believe it or not, on the whole, my mind has settled slightly. I could not have written this post a week ago. The nightmares at least have subsided. Last night I dreamed that my fiancé, Rhys’ husband wouldn’t let him help me fill the horses’ hay-nets instead. Hardly nightmarish! But the worry remains fairly constant, interspersed with intense episodes of fear.
I am not saying that my mind matters more. I worry about friends that I know are at home, alone. I know that they are lonely. I am simply pointing out that it’s not as simple as the current rhetoric I have heard surrounding lockdown and mental health would have it seem.
What do I then? I try my best to minimise the risk. I follow guidelines. I wash packaging, even my chocolate wrappers are not immune. My Daylesford chocolate stash all came with paper wrappers. The wrappers are now all wrinkled. Even the skin on my bananas is washed! Slathering my breakfast banana in fairy liquid was a weird one, trust me.
I wash my hands. Repeatedly. To the extent that I have now turned to previously my most hated of beauty products to soothe them: hand cream. Sometimes, I even use one that smells of flowers, even though just a few months ago I would have found it ridiculous. I use gloves to handle gates that others may also have handled.
And I try, wherever possible to avoid reality, cocooned in a bubble of my own creation. Which is exactly where I will pick this up tomorrow, for I sure have immersed myself in some pretty random activities.